Anxiety as a new reality
During 15 years, the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation helped five million people survive. This is the largest contribution of one person to the lives of others.
The main principle of the Foundation’s work is the philosophy of its Founder: to help here and now, especially when it comes to saving human lives and health, and at the same time – to introduce systemic changes.
That is why, in parallel with the support to millions of people, the Foundation participates in helping at the level of social change and in creating new social norms or standards. One of the projects in this area is the unique Museum of Civilian Voices. This is the first and largest in Ukraine archive of stories from Donbass civilians who suffered from the armed conflict.
Psychologists who help people cope with the war trauma are involved in collecting stories for the Museum. Since 2014, more than 60,000 different-age residents of the east of the country have received psychological support from the Foundation.
Olena Lukyanchuk is one of the Foundation’s psychologists who prepared a set of materials on psychological assistance. We are pleased to present her opinion to you.
The 21st century is the age of high speed. Everything changes quickly and sweepingly. Some 15 years ago, a mobile phone was a miracle of technology, and choosing a melody was a completely fascinating story, while today a telephone can do almost everything, and people drive electric cars. We run somewhere and manage to do as much as our parents never dreamed of. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically slowed down everything and, just as sweepingly as everything developed earlier, everything has come to a halt. Airplanes froze on tarmacs, shops closed, offices emptied out, people closed in their homes.
Experts working with human psyche say that in 2021 they have more work to do: post-quarantine or post-lockdown challenges filled their offices with patients first in summer and autumn, and now, with the second wave of the disease, everyone suddenly noticed general tension and fatigue. The level of aggression has increased. People have become intolerant of each other, the number of quarrels and divorces in families has grown up, many people have lost their jobs and were unable to adapt to the new conditions.
The hardest part, perhaps, was for those who fled from Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014 and rebuilt their lives bit by bit. They suddenly got a strong feeling that this life could fall apart again. And this is normal – any big event of uncertainty now triggers the fear of losing everything and IDPs are “infected” with this fear forever.
Everyone’s anxiety has intensified. How is it possible to plan anything amidst constant changes? Here is the war, and here is the pandemic. Here are the military at the border again. There is a conflict again, first in the Caucasus, and then in Israel. Where to run?On the one hand, this difficult period certainly became a crisis for many. Some people changed their professions and someone, perhaps, changed a city of living. The pandemic, like the war, shows us that there is no stability.
‘How to live with anxiety from uncertainty?’ you might ask.
‘Live with anxiety,’ will be my answer.
In the Middle Ages, human life was short precisely because a man all the time had to survive and fight the mess and complexity of war, diseases and poverty. In the twentieth century, we got rid of widespread hunger and it is said that even the number of armed conflicts on average has decreased, although this is hard to believe, given that now, thanks to television and the Internet, we know about everything.
Pandemic is a crisis. It is a breakdown, an abruption of our usual reality. You went to work and, when you came home, you had some rest, planned a vacation, and saved some money. But now you have to stay at home, your work is under question and your rest too. You are afraid for your own life and the lives of your loved ones.
Long-lasting uncertainty is the most traumatic thing for the psyche that can be. It is hard for us not to know what will happen next and not be able to plan.
What to do?
To live our little lives step by step trying to control what we can control. What do I mean by that?
• Stop thinking about the past and return to the present.
• Try to concentrate on your routine, your daily chores: breakfast, sleep, foodstuff, walks, pets, step by step, day after day..
• Surround yourself with your loved and dear ones and try to get emotional support from them.
• Only plan what you can do and do not get nervous about what you are unable to plan.
• Good sleep is a must.
• Doing sports is desirable, because sport gives us energy in the form of that same dopamine. And it also gives us the ability to control something in our life – our body.
• When anxiety is just unbearable, remember what helped you in past difficult situations in your life. Your near and dear ones? Belief in something? Some actions? Or anything else? Those who survived the war in 2014-2015 should use this experience as an algorithm.
• Ask yourself the questions “what exactly worries me and what exactly am I afraid of?” and, having answered them yourself, draw up a plan for all possible scenarios that could develop.
• Remember more often, what you can and what you are capable of, and less about where you are vulnerable.
• Remember that sooner or later everything ends and this will also end.
If the armed conflict has affected your life, you can also contact the Foundation’s psychologists for help by calling the hotline: 0800509001.
Your story should be known too! Tell it to the world! Follow the link https://civilvoicesmuseum.org/en/my-story and fill out a short questionnaire to make your input in the preservation of memory.